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Soldiers, Sailors, Rebels & Outlaws

William Boyd the 4th Earl of Kilmarnock

Letter from William Boyd to his son James, the Earl of Erroll, written the day before his Execution




Dear Boyd

You may easily believe it gave me a great deal of uneasiness that you did not get leave to come up here, and that I could not have the pleasure of taking a long and last farewell of you. Beside the pleasure of seeing you and giving you the blessing of a dying father I wanted to have talked to you about your affairs more than I have strength or spirits to write. I shall therefore recommend you to George Menzies in Falkirk and Robert Paterson in Kilmarnock as your advisers in them, and to a state of affairs I sent to my wife of which you will get a copy which I recommend to you in the same manner as to her. I desire you’ll consult with her, in all your affairs. I need hardly recommend it to you, as I know your good nature and regard for her, to do all you can to comfort her in the grief and affliction for sure she must be in when she has the accounts of my Death. She will need your assistance and I pray you may give it to her.
I beg leave to say two or three things to you as my last advice. Seek God in your youth and when you are old he will not depart from you. Be at pains to acquire good habits now, that they may grow up and become strong in you. Love mankind and do justice to all men. Do good to as many as you can and neither shut your ears or your purse to those in distress, whom it is in your power to relieve. Believe me you will find more pleasure in one beneficent action and in your cool moments you will be more happy with the reflection of having made any one person so, who, but by your assisting would have been miserable, than in the enjoyment of all the pleasures of love which pall in the using and of all the pomp and gaudy show of the world. Live within your circumstances, by which means you will have it in your power to do good to others and create an independence in yourself, the surest way to rise in the world. Above all things continue in your loyalty to his present Majesty and the succession to the crown as by law established. Look on that as the basis of the civil and religious liberty and property of every individual in the nation. Prefer the public interest to your own wherever they interfere. Love your family and your children, when you have any, but never let your regard for them drive you on the rock I split upon, when on that account I departed from my principles and brought the guilt of Rebellion, and public and particular desolation on my head, for which I am now under the sentence justly due to my crime. Use all your interest to get your brother pardoned and brought home as soon as possible that his circumstances, and bad influence of those he is among, may not induce him to accept foreign service and lose him both to his country and his family. If money can be found to support him I wish you would advise him to go to Geneva, where his principles of religion and liberty will be confirmed, and where he may stay with you. See if a pardon can be procured for him. As soon as Commodore Barnes comes home, enquire for your brother Billie, and take care of him on my account. I recommend to you the payment of my debts, particularly the servants wages, as mentioned in the state of my affairs. I must again recommend you your unhappy mother. Comfort her, and take all the care you can of your brothers. And may God of his infinite mercy preserve, guide and conduct you and them through all the (illegible word) of this life, and after it bring you to the habitations of the just, and make you happy in the enjoyment of himself to Eternity.

Is the sincere prayer of your affectionate father William Boyd.
Tower of London
August 17th 1746

Dean Castle
Digital Number:
EADO022a; EADO022b
Creation Date:
17th August, 1746
East Ayrshire Council

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